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Tesone, J. (1996). Multi-Lingualism, Word-Presentations, Thing-Presentations And Psychic Reality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 77:871-881.

(1996). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77:871-881

Multi-Lingualism, Word-Presentations, Thing-Presentations And Psychic Reality

Juan-Eduardo Tesone

The author begins by noting that psychoanalysts have concerned themselves with the relationship between language and thought ever since Freud published ‘On Aphasia’ in 1891 but that surprisingly little attention has been paid to multi-lingualism in the analytic situation. He contends that the use of a foreign language may act as a detour with the aim of gaining distance from the mother's voice, thereby avoiding emotional and instinctual overload. Some clinical vignettes are presented, involving the case of an Italian patient having analysis in French with an Argentinian analyst of Italian origin living in France. Italian words and phrases that occasionally come up are the vehicle for oedipal feelings and archaic representations, and the analyst's knowledge of Italian language and culture allows him to turn the relevant associations to account in the analysis. The use of a foreign language is stated to perform a similar function to negation, permitting an oracular type of ambiguity that protects the patient from the failure of repression and breakdown of the protective shield against stimuli. Following a note on the Pirandellian nature of the affective representation of the drive, the author ends with some considerations on the relations between word-presentations and thing-presentations and on how these might be modified in the foreign-language situation.

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